Travel Budget Dwindling? That Might Actually be a PLUS for your Next Ideation Effort.

Year-end budgets can be tight. And the critical ideation session that your team planned to coordinate is in serious jeopardy. You need a new plan, and FAST.

Good News. The pressure-cooker, time-zapping, impossible-to-schedule facilitated innovation workshop isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and the resulting promising new ideas are few and far between. There is one simple reason that innovation workshops just don’t work, and it’s based on Neuroscience…

Believe it or not, it’s your brain, not your abilities that are to blame if the ideas fail to flow in a traditional workshop setting. In this situation, the human brain is simply not programmed to activate its natural creative process and would-be ideas.

BeSci Explains WHY

Both creative and physical ability go into overdrive when you’re in a state of ‘Transient Hypofrontality’– wherein the parts of your frontal lobes that house higher-level cognitive functions slow down. This means that the rule and task-oriented frontal lobes are less likely to censor unconventional ideas, while activity in the sensory parts of the brain rev-up and come to life, allowing ideas and impressions to mingle freely.

Translation: We like to call this state ‘Neutral Arousal.’ There is a reason that good ideas come to us when we’re driving to work, taking a shower, or doing other monotonous, slightly engaging, but non-challenging tasks. Your brain works best when it’s not forced to perform in a high-stress or high-engagement situation. Neutral Arousal allows the discerning parts of your brain that make decisions to ‘take a break,’ while also engaging other parts of your brain that make associations and connections that lead to new ideas.

When it comes to ideation, getting the best ideas is NOT about forcing all the team members’ knowledge and experience into a room for hours at a time…

Instead, it’s about extracting the collective knowledge of your team over time.

‘Iterative Ideation’ replaces the conventional brainstorming workshop with cross-functional teams, who collaborate iteratively over a couple of weeks via an online dashboard, to generate, build, collide, and refine ideas over time. Since the best ideas often occur in this ‘transient’ hypofrontality state (which can be fleeting), this approach allows individuals to capture those kernels of ideas when and where they naturally occur, and not under artificial, forced conditions. The collaboration and refinement of ideas amongst team members naturally flows to allow the richest ideas to come forward.

So how does this actually work? It’s really quite simple…

Step 1: Collect & Elevate

Why start with a blank slate when internal knowledge and nuggets of ideas already exist? Through our proprietary software, a dashboard, or ‘canvas,’ is created and populated with the team’s existing knowledge and fledgling idea starters. (Think Google sheet for collaboration–meets sticky notes for agile organization–meets PowerPoint for visual creativity…)

And let’s face it: Sales & Marketing, for example, doesn’t always have a direct line of communication with R&D, so this places all knowledge in one place so that it’s accessible across cross-functional teams. That (sometimes disparate) knowledge is then combined and elevated to bring relevant ideas and capabilities together, where they can serve as solid footing for the ideation process.

Step 2: Mission Possible

Give team members tasks or ‘missions’ to elevate ideas instead of feeling pressure to generate them alone, which means they aren’t on the hook for fully-fledged ideas. The extended time period also allows for several opportunities for neutral arousal, and with each new login to the canvas, fresh ideas appear and the opportunity for elevation continuously presents itself.

The first mission could be to review the idea starters on the canvas and add perspective according to where individual expertise lies. This helps to flesh out each idea incrementally by adding either the voice of consumer from recent research, technical teeth, or design // packaging inspiration. For example, R&D’s mission could be to provide technical input on how to best take a traditionally dairy-based product into the ambient shelf space.

Step 3: Vote via Action!

The best ideas naturally elevate over time and with every team members’ voice, so these ‘winning’ ideas are the unique culmination of strategic thinking, years of experience, and several diverse points of view. It’s an ideal way to ensure every voice is heard, and that each team member sees his // her contributions as the ideas take shape.

So, whether or not your next ideation session is threatened by a cash-strapped budget, consider an iterative ideation approach that will engage the right people at the right time, and allow your team’s most valuable ideas to shine through.

Like what you just read? Check out more ideas on consumer behavior, innovation, marketing and insights on Thriveplan’s blog.